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The term municipality may also mean the governing body of a given municipality. A municipality is a general-purpose administrative subdivision, as opposed to a special-purpose district.
The term is derived from French municipalité and Latin municipalis. The English word municipality derives from the Latin social contract municipium (derived from a word meaning "duty holders"), referring to the Latin communities that supplied Rome with troops in exchange for their own incorporation into the Roman state (granting Roman citizenship to the inhabitants) while permitting the communities to retain their own local governments (a limited autonomy).
The territory over which a municipality has jurisdiction may encompass:
- only one populated place such as a city, town, or village
- several such places (e.g., early jurisdictions in the U.S. state of New Jersey (1798–1899) as townships governing several villages, municipalities of Mexico, municipalities of Colombia)
- only parts of such places, sometimes boroughs of a city, such as the 34 municipalities of Santiago, Chile.